Sometimes in sports, defense is even more important than offense. Defense can intimidate other teams.

Such was the case with Howard High this season and its chief intimidator was senior catcher Kaci Frick, the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Softball Player of the Year, who led her team to its first state runner-up finish and a 21-3 record with defensive skills that set her apart from other players.

"No one wanted to steal on her because of her reputation," Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold said.

Howard County players rarely even tried, but when Chesapeake-AA sent two girls stealing in the District V championship game, Frick cut them both down at second base.

Submit a Letter to the Editor for the Laurel Leader, Columbia Flier and Howard County Times

"She had the ability to change the game," Howard coach Dave Vezzi said. "She always kept the force out in play at second base, because teams would not steal on her, and that means a lot. Her presence was a big part of our success."

Vezzi tried to emphasize doing the little things to his team, and Frick, who made just one error, led the way.

"She didn't have a passed ball all season," Vezzi said. "The little things she did made her deserving of what she got (Player of Year). She was the best defensive catcher I saw all year, bar none."

Frick caught two fine pitchers, Kensey O'Neill and Sammi O'Connor, both juniors and both with different styles. Although Vezzi called the pitches, Frick had to understand her pitchers' strengths and weaknesses and keep them focused and working at peak efficiency.

"The toughest part of catching is working with the pitchers," Frick said. "You have to be smart about the game. The catcher is the one player who sees everything and has to be in charge of the game."

There was never any doubt that Frick was in charge, whether she was aggressively trying to pick a runner off base or being a vocal team captain.

Her pitchers particularly appreciated her attention to detail and astute observations.

"She framed my pitches perfectly," O'Neill said. "And she could always tell me what I was doing wrong. It was also great to know that if a runner got on she was going to throw them out."

Frick was a force offensively as well this season after struggling at the plate for three seasons. She batted either fourth or fifth in the lineup all season and posted a .443 average (27-for-61) with 22 RBIs.

She had two hits against Megan Hyson, Chesapeake-AA's premier pitcher, and two more in the state semifinal against Damascus.

That's pretty good considering she had been the designated hitter for most of her four-year career.

"I was not in the lineup regularly until this year," she said. "I struggled with my hitting those years and was distraught about it, but for the past two years I had a hitting coach, and I made adjustments and improved and was proud this year that I was in the four or five hole."

Frick plays for the Maryland Chill club team that finished in the top 25 at nationals in Texas last year. She's been playing softball since she was 6.

"I tried other sports, but never felt the same about them as I did about softball," she said. "I really am passionate about it."

Frick will get to extend that passion by playing softball at Roanoke next year.

Named to the all-county first team are: